|Introduction and Product Specifications|
DDR3; it's the future of desktop system memory, plain and simple. However, it's far from becoming the mainstream standard. As it stands now, there is little benefit to DDR3 as high costs and latency makes DDR3 a less attractive option in its current state. It's a familiar story. If you recall, back when DDR2 was in its infancy, the same argument was made, with price and latency being major detractors. Over time, however, the technology went through the normal maturation process, and with that, the latency factor was overcome and DDR2 became the dominant memory techology.
Today we are going to give you our assessment of a new high-performance DDR2 kit from OCZ. OCZ's DDR2 PC2-6400 Vista Performance Platinum 4GB Dual Channel kit is a member of OCZ's low latency Platinum XTC line, offering an impressive package that boasts 4GB of memory backed with an 800MHz rated speed with 5-4-4-15 timings. With Windows Vista slowly moving forward as the next dominant OS from Microsoft, the memory demands of this next generation Operating System will probably warrant an upgrade. While the 32-Bit version cannot recognize a full 4GB, the 64-Bit version, as well as Windows XP Pro 64-Bit, can.
In this article, we're going to take the OCZ DDR2 PC2-6400 Vista Performance Platinum 4GB Dual Channel kit for a spin around our test bed, comparing the performance to similarly clocked 2GB kit and an older 1GB for good measure. Our goal will be to quantify what gains users can expect from making the jump to 4GB and also give some general impressions after running a system with these modules for the last month or so.
Available in 2GB Modules and 4GB (2x2048) Dual Channel Kits
240 Pin DIMM
* XTC (Xtreme Thermal Convection) heatspreaders optimize the thermal management of memory modules by promoting greater airflow by means of micro-convection throughout what is usually the dead air space inside conventional heatspreader designs. In this manner, build-up of heat is avoided and thermal dissipation of the memory components is offloaded more efficiently through the honeycomb design. At the same time, mechanical stability is maintained.
**OCZ EVP (Extended Voltage Protection) is a feature that allows performance enthusiasts to use a VDIMM of 2.1V ± 5% without invalidating their OCZ Lifetime Warranty.
As the specifications outline above, we received a 4GB kit that consists of two 2GB Dual-Channel modules. The unbuffered DIMMs are rated to run at a default speed of 800MHz at 5-4-4-15 timings (CAS-TRCD-TRP-TRAS). The modules are rated to run at a default voltage of 2.1v and come with OCZ's Extended Voltage Protection feature that supports an overvoltage of 5% without voiding the modules' lifetime warranty.
Keeping the overclocker in mind, OCZ outfitted the DIMMs with their Xtreme Thermal Convection (XTC) heat spreaders to help keep the modules' temperatures in check. The perforated design of the spreaders are supposed to help with natural convection, in a sense, allowing the chips to breathe better. Therefore, the XTC speaders help the modules maintain stability in part by disipating heat more effectively than solid heat spreaders.
|HH Test Bed and SANDRA XI Testing|
How we configured our test systems : When configuring our test system for this review, the first thing we did was enter the system BIOS and set the motherboard to its default configuration. The hard drive was then formatted, and Windows XP Professional 64-Bit (SP2) was installed. When the installation was complete, we installed all of the necessary drivers for our components. Lastly, we set Windows XP's Visual Effects to "best performance", installed all of our benchmarking software, defragged the hard drive and ran our tests.
For comparison purposes, we used an OCZ PC2-8800 Gold series kit that was rated at 5-6-6-15. However, since our system peaks at 800MHz, we were able to match the timings with the 4GB Platinum series 5-4-4-15, making for the best comparison. For good measure, we threw in 1GB of PQI PC2-4200 DDR2 with timings of 3-3-3-8 more so as a reference point than a comparison. Some may question our use of 64-Bit Windows XP Pro rather than a version of Vista. In short, we opted for the most stable platform for testing, which is still Windows XP.
AMD Athlon 64 5000+ @ 2.6GHz
Gigabyte GA-M59SLI-S5 nForce 590 Motherboard
Western Digital Raptor 10,000 RPM Serial ATA Hard Disk
Microsoft Windows XP Professional (64-bit) SP-2
OCZ DDR2 PC2-6400 Vista Performance Platinum 4GB Dual Channel
4GB (2x2GB) @ 800MHz / 5-4-4-12
OCZ DDR2 PC2-8800 Gold XTC Edition
2GB (2x1GB ) Rated @ 1100MHz / 5-6-6-15
Tested @ 800MHz / 5-4-4-12
PQI24200 PC-4200 Turbo Series 1GB
(2x512MB) @ 533MHz / 3-3-3-8
We began our testing with SiSoftware's SANDRA, the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. SANDRA consists of a set of information and diagnostic utilities that can provide a host of useful information about your hardware and operating system. We ran SANDRA's Memory Bandwidth and Latency tests to assess each memory kit's performance characteristics.
In overall bandwidth, the two OCZ DDR2 Gold and Platinum Edition kits performed similarly, with the Platinum 4GB kit holding a lead of roughly 200MB/s across both Floating Point and Integer tests. In latency testing, the two OCZ kits were tied at 95ns while the older PQI 1GB Turbo series lagged significantly even though its timings were much more aggressive than each OCZ kit.
|PCMark05 and F.E.A.R.|
For our next round of benchmarks, we ran the Memory performance module built-into Futuremark's PCMark05. Below is Futuremark's explanation of what the memory test actually does.
Both the OCZ DDR2 PC2-6400 and PC2-8800 modules performed on the same level, showing no distinct advantages between 2GB and 4GB. The PQI PC-4200 posted a lower score, which was expected with its lower frequency.
We continued our testing with both low-resolution and high-resolution F.E.A.R. tests. Despite the fact that this is a game benchmark that can be used to test the relative performance of video cards, frame rates are strongly influenced by processor speed and available memory bandwidth, especially at low resolutions. After running the test at 640x480 to focus performance on the subsystem components, we bumped the resolution up to 1024x768 to see whether 2GB vs 4GB resulted in any measurable performance differences.
Quite frankly, we expected a bit more variation in the frame rates at 1024x768, but each run was dead-on around 86FPS. The most notable differences were recorded at the low resolution of 640x480, where the 4GB OCZ Platinum kit edged out the 2GB OCZ Gold series by 6FPS. The 1GB PQI Turbo series trailed by no less than 22FPS, which wasn't a total surprise since it is competing against memory clocked 266MHz faster.
|3DMark06 and Overclocking|
In our final test, we opted to run FutureMark's 3DMark06 default benchmark to see what impact, if any, the memory speed and quantity had on the results.
In this test, we saw no major variations between having 1, 2 or 4GB of memory installed and even the frequency had no impact on this test. This demonstrates how much the test relies on CPU and the graphics card used rather than what type and how much memory was installed.
In our final round of testing, we delved into the overclocking arena to see what kind of extra headroom the Platinum series was hiding. First we set the memory for 800MHz in the BIOS and then dropped the CPU multiplier to x5 to make sure the CPU wasn't the cause of a failed overclock. Lastly, we maxed out the DDR voltage at 2.5v. Next, we sought to find the highest stable speed with the rated timings of 5-4-4-15.
Ultimately, the highest bus speed we could hit was 227MHz, which helped the OCZ Platinum series move from 800MHz to 908MHz, a gain of 108MHz or 11.8%. Next, we relaxed the times to 6-6-6-18 and continued to raise the bus speed to see just how high we could go. In the end, we managed to hit an impressive 256MHz, which pushed the memory up 224MHz to 1024MHz, a gain of 28%. There is no arguing that these modules are built for speed but it's up to your individual taste regarding which method is best. Our personal preference is the highest speed with the tightest timings.
|Performance Analysis and Conclusion|
Performance Summary and General Impressions: Looking back at the performance of the OCZ DDR2 PC2-6400 Vista Performance Platinum 4GB Dual Channel memory kit, we were impressed with the product's stability and performance. However, there is little argument, from a benchmark perspective, for investing in 4GB over 2GB. Yes, in SANDRA the larger kit offered somewhat more bandwidth in the test, but this was not evident in the other tests we performed. Latency was low, but we saw no advantages in PCMark05 or our gaming tests to strongly urge anyone to go for 4GB of memory. Then again, while benchmarks are a method for gauging performance of a particular piece of hardware, they are not the only method. This is why it is necessary to spend some time with a product, using it in everyday tasks to see how it performs and that's exactly what we did with the OCZ DDR2 PC2-6400 Vista Performance Platinum 4GB Dual Channel modules.
To help get a sense for how 4GB affects everyday usage, I spent close to a month running these modules in my personal machine. After a month had past, while our benchmark testing did not show much benefit of running 4GB over 2GB, we'd have to argue that there really is a plus. For example, F.E.A.R. did not show any measurable gains in FPS at 1024x768, yet we did spend some time with the game using both 2GB and 4GB modules under WIndows Vista Ultimate 64-Bit and the game was definitely smoother with the 4GB kit. This was even more evident in S.T.A.L.K.E.R., where load times definitely improved and the game play was smoother with all settings at their maximum. The benefits of 4GB are clear if you actually spend some time in front of a system equipped with that much memory. This is especially true when running Vista, as the OS is designed to use every bit of memory you have to offer, and also true if you're a multitasker who tends to run multiple memory-hungry applications.
As we bring this article to a close, we'd have to say our experience with the OCZ DDR2 PC2-6400 Vista Performance Platinum 4GB Dual Channel memory kit was a good one. These modules performed well in our overclocking segment and performance in our benchmarking sections was competitive. We were pleased with the overall performance, and as we stated earlier, it's definitely worth getting 4GB even if the benchmarks don't necessarily paint a clear picture. The benefits will be most evident in Vista. Surely those doing new builds might want to plan on DDR3 since that is the next generation of memory. But for those upgrading existing systems, especially those running Vista, these modules can improve the overall performance of the system, making for a smooth experience in general system performance as well as games with high demands on system resources.
The OCZ DDR2 PC2-6400 Vista Performance Platinum 4GB Dual Channel memory modules come at a price, weighing in around $272 for the 4GB package and as low as $110 for the 2GB version. Either way, we think both products will impress and with a lifetime warranty, it's hard to go wrong.